This past week I reached a new milestone in my life. I crossed the 1,000 friend mark in Facebook.

And while I can already hear some of you groaning and rolling your eyes at my “achievement,” this really got me thinking about our concept of friendship in today’s society, and how it affects us in our everyday relationships with other people.

The virtual society

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Given that I’m the National Media Director for Campus Renewal Ministries, this has struck people as somewhat odd on more than one occasion. But it’s true.

As much as I appreciate advances that allow me to look up information in an instant (Google is genius!), and create edgy new videos with motion graphics and the like, I am still resistant to jumping on the bandwagon with other things. So I refuse to get a smart phone (I’ll keep my dumb phone, thank you very much), and I don’t touch the computer on weekends.

Why? Because it seems to me the more we rely on technology to get us through the day, the more lonely society has become. And where there are lonely people, there is the need for a Savior, and someone to reach out and touch them.

Facebook vs face time

Let me clarify. I don’t think technology is evil. However, following the belief that all things can be taken to excess, I do think there’s a danger when technology starts to rule your life, particularly when it starts to take away from spending time building relationships with other people.

If we call ourselves Christians, which in essence means followers of Christ, then the automatic correlation is that we should do what Jesus did. And Jesus spent time with people. More than that, He was their friend. (Mark 2:13-17)

So here’s the question: Do you really know what’s going on in your friends’ lives? Or is most of the info coming from status updates that never require an actual conversation? If so, maybe it’s time to log off facebook and go grab coffee with someone.

The power of presence

When we train students to be missional, of the things we emphasize a lot in our SPARK course is the need to be physically present in whatever community you’re reaching out to. 1) Because sharing your testimony and the love of Christ is usually more effective when you’re actually there to tell/show it, and 2) because in order to build any sort of trust, you have to be willing to spend time and get to know people.

What we stress is that conversion is NOT the goal. It’s about building relationships, and in doing so, introducing them to the ultimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Religion has hurt and wounded many, but a relationship with the loving Father can heal all things. And often times, this relationship often begins by experiencing that love from a Christian i.e. you. (John 13:34 -35)

Spending time is not wasting time

Our culture perplexes me sometimes. We always have to be doing something. Have you ever noticed that? You ask someone to hang out, and the immediate question that follows is “what are we going to do?” It’s almost like the simple pleasure of someone’s company is not enough. Or maybe it’s that we’re afraid of having real, in-depth conversations. It’s easy to have fun, but going deeper? That’s a whole other story.

In a previous entry, I talked about the crowd of people that flood into my house on Fridays. It’s loud and crazy, and sometimes it gets tiring trying to plan what we’re going to do. So one day we just didn’t.

After talking and praying about it with my co-leaders, we decided to try implementing a “conversation night.” In other words, we provided food, told people to show up at the regular time, and just sat back and watched where our conversations would take us for the night (also keeping an eye out for opportunities for spiritual conversations of course).

Conversation night blew us away. Not that anything particularly amazing happened, but rather we realized that we didn’t need games or movies to keep us entertained. Instead of worrying about our next activity, we were able to just relax in one another’s company, enjoy good food and share what was going on in our lives.

Later than night, just past 3am, as I was finally getting to bed, I received a text saying, “thank you very much for what you guys do. You are pretty much the only community I have and it’s nice to be able to have a group of people I can really talk to.” And that said it all.

Maybe we didn’t do anything in particular that night. Or maybe, just maybe, we finally got our busyness and activities out of the way, and let God move through our group. Next time you’re with your missional community, try a conversation night and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear what God does! 🙂